Last week, I began to answer the question, “What is infidelity?” This week, we’re taking a deeper look at the first component of an affair: Secrecy.

As Esther Perel says, “Secrecy is the number one organizing principle of an affair.” An affair resides in the shadow of the primary relationship, never meant to see the light of day.

So why do people keep secrets and what can it mean to their relationship?

Secrets are Empowering

One of the reasons people keep secrets is that it can make them feel powerful, increases their sense of autonomy, and provides them with an unseen advantage over others.

Many women (and some men) have affairs because it gives them back a sense of control. It helps them to be able to express a part of themselves that they have either lost connection with or have never felt comfortable expressing.

There are many who report that they are normally rule followers and never imagined themselves stepping outside of the lines and into an affair. But once they have, the feeling can be exhilarating.

Secrets are Enticing

The fact that an affair must remain unseen means that there is always anticipation. The thrill of never knowing when you’ll next meet or whether you’ll be caught can be intoxicating.

The erotic charge of anticipation can hold the betrayer captive for as long as the affair remains hidden- sometimes for years. Adrenaline becomes an aphrodisiac.

Of course, keeping secrets- lying, deceiving, hiding- can also take its toll on a person.

Secrets can Break a Relationship

With keeping secrets, there comes an emotional load. Many people are filled with shame and guilt about not being truthful to their loved ones. People who say that trust is a cornerstone of a good relationship are not immune to the irony of their own deception.

Those that discover their partner’s infidelity often report being more hurt, not by the act of betrayal itself, but rather by the discovery of the lies and deceit. “It’s not that he had an affair that hurts; it’s that he lied about it.”

When surveyed, most people say that they would want their partner to be honest about an affair. Most people also report that if they were having an affair that they would likely lie about it.

So there are no simple answers. In this day and age, trust can be hard to come by, and once it’s broken, may never be restored.

When is it okay to keep secrets from your partner? I spend hours in session with my clients attempting to answer that very question, and I’ll be talking more about that in the coming weeks so stay tuned.

More posts in this series:

What is Infidelity?

Part Two: Emotional Involvement

Part Three: Sexual Alchemy

Mark Cagle, LPC

Mark Cagle is a father, husband, and expert marriage counselor in Dallas. He is passionate about helping couples to overcome the heartache of infidelity and betrayal so that they can heal the hurt and rekindle their relationship. Mark believes that by specializing in couples counseling he is able to dedicate himself and hone his skills in order to have the greatest impact on the couples he works with.